How to see a doctor in China
It is always unfortunate to fall sick in a foreign land. What happens if you do and need to seek medical help? Let us provide you with some useful medical advice and tips. In addition, elaborate on how to seek medical help or assistance in Shanghai and China at large.
The Chinese medical system comprises mostly of public and private hospitals. Small and personalized clinics are still not common. Big cities in China like Beijing and Shanghai have hospitals, clinics, and dentists established for foreigners.
Many of them are a part of local hospitals. Most hospitals in China practice the Western
Medical treatment system while a good percentage practices Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Furthermore, a large percentage of hospitals also practice a mixture of Western and
Chinese medicine. Some can offer a full range of medical services such as operations, check-ups and in-patient facilities while other smaller clinics may simply be able to diagnose the symptoms of minor ailments.
Common procedures to visit a doctor in China’s hospitals
- Before going to the hospital
Chinese hospital departments are divided into general outpatient services and experienced specialist doctors. Patients who want to see a specialist doctor are advised to arrive at the hospital earlier to wait in line.
Dialing 120 will get you an ambulance when in a medical emergency. Most hospitals have appointment booking services, through the hotline or online platforms.
Most Chinese will visit a local hospital. If your company does not cover medical expenses, you can try visiting a local Chinese hospital. If you decide to see a doctor in a local public hospital, you should have an interpreter accompany you as most of the doctors and nurses do not speak English fluently. You should have some basic knowledge such as the procedures
After arriving at the hospital, the patient should first register (graham) at the admission desk and pay an admission fee. Materials needed for registration include the patient’s passport and maybe a piece of paper with the name of the specific department/school.
The patient will get a hospital card (Angelika) if he/she has not been to the clinic before. The hospital card will be required during future visits
- Seeing the doctor
The patient will enter a consultation room to see the doctor when it is his/her turn. The doctor will do a few checks with instruments after inquiring the patient on his/her illness.
There are no separate waiting areas and consultations rooms in some public hospitals, so the patients may need to go behind a curtain or screen in the need to undress.
- Get the medicine and pay fees
After the doctor gives you a prescription (chuffing), the patient needs to pay the fee and then can get the medicine from the hospital pharmacy (yaofang). The patient shows the chemist the prescription and is given what he/she needs.
A hospital’s pharmacy is usually located in the lobby of the outpatient building.
- Do further tests and pay fees
Further tests may be prescribed if the doctor thinks the patient has an infection or problems that are more serious. The patient could go to the section where the examinations are carried out with a receipt after paying for the examination.
If the examination results come out quickly, the patient can consult the original doctor without waiting in line.
If the results come out on another day, the patient has to register again.
- Hospitalization or surgery
If hospitalization and/or surgery is required, the doctor will check when a bed and surgery are available. Then the patients need to pay all the potential costs.
The patient may share a ward with several other patients. Nevertheless, a VIP ward with a private or semi-private room may also be available.
Chinese health belief
Chinese believe in the adage that prevention is always better than cure. Hence, it is very common to see Chinese practice Qi-Gong or Tai-Chi (forms of Chinese martial arts) in parks, gardens, and playgrounds to achieve good internal health and strength.
If you do not have time to pick up such skills, the Chinese always believe that Tui-Na (推拿) a form Chinese massage) and reflexology (足疗 Foot massage) can go a long way towards maintaining good health. The Chinese have a long tradition for Chinese Kung Fu or martial arts. Injuries are very common and herbal plasters and ointments are effective for treatment.
The best method to avoid seeing a doctor is not to fall ill.
Minimize the risk of falling ill by practicing the following few tips.
- Bring some common medicines you use at home, and keep them in your bag just for emergencies.
- When traveling, get plenty of rest and sleep.
- Drink plenty of fluid, but in China, try to avoid drinking directly from the water tap. Drink from bottled water/drinks and always boil the water if your only choice is the tap.
- Always eat in a restaurant that has plenty of customers. Avoid restaurants that do not have customers and be careful with street stalls.
Of course, if you would like to choose International hospitals or clinics in shanghai, here are some sources: